Mr Johnson will make it clear that he wants the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures to be gradual and will urge the public to “stay alert”. He was expected to take more drastic action but it appears the Government has backtracked slightly amid warnings from scientific advisors that Britain could suffer more than 100,000 deaths by the end of the year if lockdown is relaxed too far and too fast. It is a difficult balancing act and the Prime Minister faces the unenviable task of finding a solution that maintains health demands with restarting the stagnant economy.
As he admitted himself, he struggled with the idea of enforcing a lockdown in the first place as the measure is directly opposed to the importance he places on liberty in his political philosophy.
And as he prepares to ease restrictions, President Reagan’s address at the Annual Convention of Kiwanis International in 1987 holds particular relevance.
He said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
“We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.
“It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
He was, of course, saying this in the context of Cold War politics and his notion of “freedom” was intended to reflect his desire to maintain democracy at all costs.
Nevertheless, the philosophy behind it is relevant and rings true with a recent study put together by University College London analysing the impact of lockdown measures on young people.
The survey of 85,000 found most middle-aged and elderly people complying with Government guidelines, while up to half of those aged 18-29 admitted breaking the rules.
The Sunday Times reports that UCL’s Daisy Fancourt has told Public Health England: “We have made them aware of the disproportionate impact lockdown is having on younger people.”
President Reagan’s view may feel even more at home in the White House at the moment, too.
US President Donald Trump is lifting lockdown measures far quicker than Mr Johnson will dare.
Just today, 45 states were due to have relaxed restrictions on businesses and public services, with restaurants reopening in Florida, golf courses in Massachusetts and garden centres in Michigan.
This comes despite a Pew Research Centre poll claiming 68 percent of Americans are worried about their states reopening too soon.
But Stephen Moore, an economist and long-time confidant of the billionaire, claims: “For the sake of America’s future, we have to reopen.
“Trump is making the right case here.”
It could well be the case that there is no right answer here and Mr Johnson finds himself in a textbook Catch-22 scenario.
Lift the lockdown measures too dramatically and the health implications hardly bear thinking about, but the economic and mental health connotations of being too timid could be crippling for decades to come.
Published at Sun, 10 May 2020 14:29:00 +0000